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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don Juan

© Mark Fisher - published in The Guardian

Don Juan
Citizen's, Glasgow
2 out of 5

It worked for John Simm in Life on Mars, so why not for Mark Springer in Don Juan? Like DCI Sam Tyler in the TV series, John D is a modern-day man who, thanks to some jiggery-pokery in the space-time continuum, finds himself in a bygone era. The production doesn't make clear whether he is a Max Clifford-style media manipulator or a pop celebrity, but by the time he wakes up in the 1730s, it's plain he is a real Don Juan.

The idea behind director Jeremy Raison's version of the story, reworked from Robert David MacDonald's Goldoni translation, is to underscore its 21st- century relevance. It has the opposite effect. By going back in time, this Don Juan puts the play in quotation marks. It's as if we're seeing this world of frisky country maids, impotent men and sexually repressed ladies from the outside. We are detached observers, which means however many ideas Raison throws at the production - and there are a lot - and however well it is acted, the characters remain at one remove.

It isn't that Goldoni's play no longer speaks to a modern audience. A vain-glorious man concerned only with his libido could easily be a product of today's sexualised society. But the challenges Don Juan faces here are not of 2008. What woman would insist on marriage after a single night? Who would hunger for a Don Juan to rescue her from an arranged marriage? When Springer asks, "What did I do that was so bad?" you have to wonder yourself, because his violations only make sense in an 18th-century context.

His egotism makes him a bit of a prat, but in today's terms he's doing little worse than playing the field, which means, without the irony of Life on Mars, the play ends up stuck in time.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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